A link to this went up on Facebook the other day (I can’t remember who it was, sorry about that). Those unable to click will want to know that it goes to the Lego website and their yet-to-be-released line of dinosaur based toys. I’m all for Lego and like most people had plenty of it when I was younger and used it a lot, in fact it seems to be universally popular and that bring me to this post.

Eagle-eyed / nerdy / geeky / pedantic / whatever (delete as appropriate) will spot that they (shock, horror) haven’t italicised the taxonomic names properly. For all my pendantry (it comes with the  bundle pack of cynicism when you start a PhD) I’d normally write this off. After all, it’s all too commonly done even by people who should know better, so a toy company can easily be excused.

However, what I see here is an opportunity. Lego is enjoyed by millions of children, and I can’t see Lego dinosaurs being unpopular this coming year. Kids love learning and generally do spot and retain details. Lego have always struck me a rather ethical company who know full well their responsibilities to children and learning as well as playing. Given that the line has not actually been released yet, I wonder if a polite letter from a concerned group of palaeontologists might get them to change this? Sure, it’s a very minor issue, but for them it’s not exactly a redesign of the packaging or toys, and what it will do is reach a huge and engaged audience.

So I don’t think there’s any harm in at a least asking, but I’d be intrigued to see what others think. If I put something together, would any of you lot be interested in adding your name as a ‘we the undersigned’?


18 Responses to “Lego”

  1. 1 Jan Helldén 08/01/2012 at 11:09 am

    Oh horror! Lego haven’t italicised the taxonomic names properly! I’m sure that we are many who are ready to backup your complaint to Lego. While you’re at it could you please mention the minor anachronism of having humans with helicopters, cars &c hunting these dinosaurs? I admit that it is only a very minor detail of > 65 million years that bothers me and compared to the lack of italication it’s nothing. But I would be glad if you bring this issue up with the Lego guys as well!

    • 2 David Hone 08/01/2012 at 6:52 pm

      Well i imagine they’ll be invoking some kind of time travel or other standard sci fi thing. But science *within* sci fi is a pretty common aspect of science communication and education, so I don’t really see the contradiction.

  2. 4 Robert Sloan 08/01/2012 at 4:33 pm

    Oh definitely write to them and ask them to italicize the species names. All of the old style dinosaur toys I got in the 1950s and 60s had then-accurate scientific information on them and italicized the species names. Half of them explained that species names get italicized!

    That’s the dino-trivia that separates the boys and girls from the babies. It’s part of becoming a dino-savvy kid. Tell them that they are giving added value to the toy with that edit.

    Children spot mistakes.

    Little kids getting a toy are going to be the first to sneer and say “They didn’t italicize the species name, sheesh, how ignorant can they be?” If that’s not their first dinosaur toy, they’ll feel ever so superior being Smarter Than The Toy Designer. Kids LOVE catching adults in mistakes.

    Heck, quote my comment when you do. This is something the Lego company’s marketing and labeling division needs to be aware of. Dinosaur toy buyers are sharp and want the species right. Six and seven year olds memorize polysyllabic dinosaur names and get holier than thou about any misspelling or error.

    Call a Styracosaurus a Triceratops and you’ve joined the ranks of companies that kids can laugh at and pick on. They’ll still buy the product but they’ll ask for more first from companies that get the short informative labels and packaging information right. It’s even easier for them now that they can use Wikipedia, but even back in my day we used the library or consulted our dinosaur books.

    • 5 Robert Sloan 08/01/2012 at 4:34 pm

      Oh duh, yes, add my name to “we the undersigned” and please include the text of my long comment as additional relevant material.

      • 6 Robert Sloan 08/01/2012 at 4:56 pm

        One more tip for them. My seven year old granddaughter could spell Styracosaurus before she went to first grade. She labeled her dinosaur drawings accurately albeit in wobbly letters. She fact-checks.

        She would love these toys and they’re on my list for Grandpa surprising her on her birthday this year. Thanks for the link.

        The only thing that would make them perfect for her (and attract many more girls buying the sets) would be adding a set including eggs and a set including one or more juveniles. Her favorite game or story with her dinosaur toys even before she could read was mother dinosaurs guarding and interacting with eggs and juveniles. If she drew them, eggs and babies were always in the picture.

        Right now these are more boy-oriented stories. They can double the market by adding female action figures plus eggs or juveniles. No reason the eggs and juveniles couldn’t be a second round of additional upgrades for your dinosaur jungle, but if one set came with them to begin with, that set would start girls collecting faster.

        Speaking as Grandpa, I’d know to get all the optional eggs/juveniles. As it stands I may have to make them out of polymer clay to complete the set.

  3. 7 Ben Jones Guitar 08/01/2012 at 4:46 pm

    Delighted that everyone here’s up in arms about italicisation of species names but the ‘people hunting dinosaurs’ thing is, y’know, whatever.

    • 8 David Hone 08/01/2012 at 7:07 pm

      Well I doubt they’d change that no matter who protested. And in any case it looks to me more ’rounding up’ than ‘head on the wall’ hype hunting.

  4. 9 Leah 08/01/2012 at 5:22 pm

    What about the description of the Pteranodons as “birds” and “flying dinosaurs”? Just curious what you think. Those are common misconceptions that bother me, but I’m certainly no expert. 🙂

  5. 12 sahelanthropus 08/01/2012 at 6:09 pm

    I agree with the sentiments expressed above.

  6. 13 Helen J. DeMarsh 08/01/2012 at 6:10 pm

    As not only someone who enjoyed Lego immensely as a girl but is also a budding paleontologist, I heartily agree. I noticed that they referred to the pteranodon figure as a ‘dinosaur’ consistently, which hopefully they could address as well.

  7. 14 chris y 08/01/2012 at 7:36 pm

    That’s one heck of a Coelophysis in 5882!

  8. 15 Adam 08/01/2012 at 10:41 pm

    Dave, this line has actually hit the shelves, at least in the US. I saw some of these while shopping for my nephew in Toys R Us and Walmart. I agree with your sentiments, but luckily I’m sure this won’t be the last LEGO line to feature dinosaurs.

  9. 16 Mark Robinson 09/01/2012 at 2:38 am

    I know that they feel that they have to compete with whichever Japanese cartoon robots are the current rage, but what I liked about Lego when I was a kid was actually designing and building things (including dinos!) out of the constituent blocks. Sure they looked like low-res sprites with their jagged staircase surfaces but I think you learned more with “boring blocks” than you can now with this dumbed-down pre-fab flashy stuff.

    The modern Lego gear could have been produced by any number of plastic-fantastic manufacturers. Sticking a couple of Lego lugs on the top doesn’t really make it Lego.

    Oh, and *bunny hands!*

  10. 17 Zhen 09/01/2012 at 4:07 am

    Ok, imagine this scenario. Your own brand on Dinosaur Legos, as in Dinosaur Legos with your stamp of approval for scientific accuracy.

    I had a Tyrannosaurus lego set back in 1994 or so when Jurassic Park was all the rage. The kangaroo pose made it easy to knock over if you’re not careful.

  11. 18 Darren Naish 10/01/2012 at 9:26 am

    The line is on the shelves here in the UK. I can’t say I care much about the italicization of names on boxes (sorry): I’m more bothered by the bunny-handed tyrannosaur and the unfeathered ‘raptor’.

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